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Chicken & Tortilla Soup

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Serves 2 as a light main course or substantial first course.

Be sure the broth is very hot so that it heats up the ingredients in the bowl and offers a strong contrast with the cool, smooth chunks of avocado. The spice level is very low—just a slight chile warmth—so if you prefer more of a kick, add more chili powder or use a hotter powder. This recipe is easily doubled.

  • 1 Tbs. vegetable or olive oil, plus another 1/2 to 1 cup for frying the tortillas
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion (from about 1/2 small onion)
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder; more to taste
  • 1 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 skinless chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless)
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth (I use Pacific brand)
  • Fresh cilantro: six 2-inch stems for the broth, plus 1/4 cup roughly chopped leaves for the garnish
  • 4 fresh corn tortillas, 6 inches across, cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels (canned is fine)
  • 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup diced fresh tomato
For the garnish:
  • 1 ripe avocado, diced and tossed with a squeeze of lime juice
  • 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco, feta, or ricotta salata
  • 2 dollops sour cream
  • Lime wedges for serving

Put 1 Tbs. of the oil in a large saucepan or small soup pot, add the onion, and cook over medium heat until the onion has softened but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add the chili powder and tomato paste and stir with a wooden spoon to mix and cook briefly; take care not to let the chili powder scorch.

Season the chicken thighs lightly with salt and nestle them in the chile paste, turning them once so they’re entirely coated. Pour in about 1/2 cup of the broth and adjust the heat to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the chicken, turning once, until it’s extremely tender when pierced with a knife, 30 to 40 minutes (add a little more broth if the pan is drying out). When the chicken’s done, remove it from the pan, let it cool a bit, and cut or shred it into bite-size pieces, discarding any bones and bits of fat or gristle; set aside.

If there’s any visible grease in the pan, spoon it off, add the remaining broth and the cilantro stems and simmer, uncovered, until the broth has reduced by about one-third and is quite flavorful, 20 to 30 minutes.

While the broth is reducing, fry the tortillas: Linke a plate with two layers of paper towels. Fill a small, high-sided saucepan with enough oil to come to about a 1-inch depth. Heat the oil over medium heat; when it reaches 375°F or when a strip of tortilla sizzles immediately when dipped in the oil, add six to eight strips of tortilla. With tongs or a long fork, "scrunch" them for a second or two so they take on a wavy shape. Fry until the strips aren't bubbling much and have become golden brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to the paper towels. Repeat with the remaining strips.

Divide the shredded chicken, the corn, black beans, tomato, and tortilla strips between two large soup or pasta bowls. Reheat the broth if necessary so it’s piping hot and pour it over the ingredients in the bowls. Serve immediately, and let each diner add the avocado, cheese, sour cream, chopped cilantro, and a big squeeze of lime juice at the table.

Variations

Rib-eye version:  Instead of the chicken thighs, use an 8-oz. rib-eye or other tender cut of beef. Trim all the fat and silverskin and cut the meat into bite-size strips, slightly more than 1/4-inch thick. Toss the steak with a little salt. Start the recipe by heating the 1-Tbs. oil until quite hot, add the steak, and stir-fry it to brown the outside. The meat will cook more in the broth, but if you like your meat medium or well done, continue cooking it a few more minutes at this point. Remove the meat from the pan and reserve. Continue with the recipe above, skipping the chicken, of course.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 670; Fat (g): fat g 35; Fat Calories (kcal): 320; Saturated Fat (g): sat fat g 8; Protein (g): protein g 34; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 15; Carbohydrates (g): carbs g 61; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 9; Sodium (mg): sodium mg 1140; Cholesterol (mg): cholesterol mg 75; Fiber (g): fiber g 15;

Photo: Scott Phillips

Delicious! Try adding several finely cut chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for some extra depth and smokiness.

This would have been extremely delicious had I not burnt the broth that the chicken was cooking in! (luckily chicken was unharmed). I completed the recipe and ate it anyway and plan on doing it again this week. Fine cooking recipes are usually perfect so I blame it on incorrect pot size/or overheated burners!

The first time I made this soup it did not blow me away. It had too much chili powder for my taste so the base soup seemed like a chilied chicken broth. Of course it got a lot better once the toppings were added - avocado adds such a wonderful creaminess and the lime and tomato, freshness. I've since tweaked the recipe. I add a lot more tomato paste (2-3 tbs) and tweak the spices. I cut back on the regular chili powder a bit and add some chipotle chili powder to it for some heat. I add some toasted ground cumin with the chili powder and as a finish. I also use a lot more chicken and double the beans and corn. I now make this in double batches so I keep some in the freezer.

FANTASTIC! I used chicken breast as that was what I had on hand and I used cayenne instead of chili powder because I didn't have any and only needed a smaller amount, also added some cumin. I doubled everything except the chicken and the consistency turned out great! I used frozen corn and added it just added it a few minutes before serving. I somehow bought cilantro without great stem/roots so didn't add them to the stock just added LOTS of chopped cilantro leaves at the end instead. I thought it might be too salty until I added the lime juice at the end - made it PERFECT! I used crushed corn chips instead of fried tortillas because it was faster and turned out great! Definitely one for the recipe box!

This recipe has earned a permanent place in my recipe box. The broth is so delicious when it's reduced down. I use Better Than Bouillon chicken base (comes in a jar) so that I can easily double or quadruple the recipe. I don't like wasting so much oil for frying the tortillas, so I usually toss the tortilla strips with several teaspoons of vegetable oil and place them in my toaster oven on broil for 3-5 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.

This recipe is very good. I also added some cumin and a tbs of chicken bouillon paste when simmering the chicken. It was very flavorful and a big success!Jenny - Aruba

Soups aren't my strong point-but this was delicious. Very simple and full of lots of flavor. I used chicken breast because that's what I had and added some chipolte powder and cumin to the soup. Other than that I kept the recipe the same. Used leftover homemade corn tortillas! This was a keeper.

So delicious! I used frozen corn and added it the last 3 minutes that the broth was reducing. I also put the chicken back into the hot broth because it had cooled considerably. My whole family loves this one! Even my kids, ages 6-11 finish every drop of this soup.

This is a really good soup as it is. But the basic broth, made with canned stock, is great too and you could add shellfish to it.

Nice, hearty soup. Added a serrano pepper with some seeds for spice instead of additional chili powder.

Delicious. Have made twice now. We love it.

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